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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Hasegawa

What's happening in the Venezuelan Amazon?

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

A quick overview

Around 60% of Venezuela's territory—550,000 square kilometres—belongs to the Amazon biome. Venezuela ranks among the top 17 most biodiverse countries in the world and also it is rich in minerals and oil. It has some of the world's largest proven oil reserves as well as huge quantities of gold, coltan, iron and bauxite.

Yet, Venezuela faces a socio-economic crisis due to the mismanagement of its wealth and natural resources.

Venezuela has recently experienced one of the World’s longest hyperinflation events and the collapse of its oil industry. This has destroyed the economy of the country. The prospects of income from mining have led to the unleashing of indiscriminate mining in the Southern region of Venezuela.

The Orinoco Mining Arc was officially created in 2016 (under decree No. 2248) as a mining mega-project. It covers 12.2 per cent of Venezuela’s territory between the states of Amazonas, Bolívar and Delta Amacuro. It is an area rich in mineral resources that is estimated to contain 7,000 tons of gold, among other minerals. It is considered a territory worth a potential of 2 trillion US Dollars.

The illegal mining in this area is causing severe damage to the environment, local communities, and wildlife. Reports state the illegal gold mines are violently displacing indigenous populations, the increase of illicit business, exploitation of miners and women forced into sex work, significant deforestation, and contamination of rivers and groundwater with arsenic and mercury, which has led to a health crisis in the indigenous populations.

An ARTivist event delivered to the MSt in Social Innovation class at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge Judge Business School (09.12.2022) - In photo: Katherine Hasegawa and Henry Williams

How are we contributing to making the issue of the Orinoco Mining Arc visible?

We deliver live performance art shows that include a dance with the ‘Ecocide money dress’, a dress made of worthless Venezuelan banknotes, a short film and an activist presentation. For more information about the show, follow the link here.

How can you contribute?

You can support our cause in many ways:

  • By learning more about this issue and the work of organisations dedicated to stopping illegal mining in Venezuela.

  • By spreading the word about these issues - e.g. reposting on your social media.

  • By contacting us to deliver our ARTivist show in your university, museum, town hall…

Reading List

  • SOS Orinoco posts trendy articles, documentaries, documents, videos and websites regarding Southern Venezuela, mostly related to the Orinoco Mining Arc. Visit their ‘References’ page, here.

  • Human Rights Watch HRW (2020), Venezuela: Violent Abuses in Illegal Gold Mines Credible Allegations of Government Involvement, Acquiescence. [online access]

  • OECD (2016), Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas. [online access]

  • OECD (2021), Gold Flows from Venezuela Supporting due diligence on the production and trade of gold in Venezuela. [online access]

  • OHCHR (2020), A/HRC/44/54 Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Independence of the justice system and access to justice in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, including for violations of economic and social rights, and the situation of human rights in the Arco Minero del Orinoco region. [online access]

  • OHCHR (2022), A/HRC/51/43: Report of the independent international fact-finding mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. [online access]

  • Rendon, M. (2020), Illegal Mining in Venezuela: Death and Devastation in the Amazonas and Orinoco Regions. CSIS. [online access]

  • Roth, K. (2020), World Report 2022: Venezuela. Human Rights Watch HRW [online access]

  • SVE (2021) Current situation of auriferous (gold) mining and other minerals. [online access]

  • UN News (2022), Venezuela: UN report highlights criminal control of mining area and wider justice concerns. [online access]

  • World Rainforest Movement WRM (2021), Predatory mining in Venezuela: The Orinoco Mining Arc, enclave economies and the National Mining Plan. [online access]


We are excited to announce that we (the Ideas For Venezuela team) have produced our own artistic video to help spread the word. We hope you will find it interesting and will share it among your networks. Thank you!

ARTivismo por la Amazonía Venezolana - No al Oro de Sangre Venezolano. [on Youtube here] (ENG and SPN)

  • SOS Orinoco (2020), Documental: El Arco Minero ¿Ecocidio o Suicidio? [on Youtube here]

  • Documental: Arco Minero del Orinoco desastre ambiental / parte 1 / de 5 partes. [on Youtube here] - ESP

  • TEDxAmazonInvestorCoalition (2020), Venezuela's Amazon Forest & Illegal Mining, Speaker: Cristina Vollmer Burelli [on Youtube here]

  • Noticias ONU (2019), Niños indigenas cantan el himno nacional en su idioma Mapoyo. [on Twitter here]

Resources in Spanish

Find below the logos of some of the Institutions speaking about the Amazon and the impact of illegal mining

THAKN YOU for reading this blog, and for your interest in supporting this cause.

Please do get in touch.

Help us spread the word.

You can find me on Instagram, LinkedIn or via email

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